New report finds LGB parents and their children faring well despite heterosexism

Clark University associate professor of psychology Abbie Goldberg Clark University associate professor of psychology Abbie Goldberg

A new report co-authored by Clark University associate professor of psychology Abbie E. Goldberg  finds that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) parents and their children are functioning quite well despite confronting heterosexism in a variety of social contexts, including healthcare, legal and school systems.

Co-written with Williams Institute scholars Nanette K. Gartrell and Gary Gates, the Research Report on LGB-Parent Families is the result of collaborative research Goldberg conducted while serving as a visiting scholar at the institute during 2013 and early 2014. The report provides an overview of the contemporary research on LGB-parent families and highlights research gaps on the experiences of LGB parents and their children.

“Studies on LGB parenting have grown in number and scope over the past several decades,  which enables us to understand how LGB parents and their children are doing when compared to different-sex parent families,” said Goldberg. “Despite concerns that the sexual orientation of LGB parents will negatively affect children, research is consistent in indicating that sexuality is not relevant to adults’ parenting capacities and the outcomes of their children.”

Key findings in the report include:

• In the majority of contemporary LGB-parent families, the children were conceived in the context of different-sex relationships as opposed to being conceived or adopted in the context of same-sex relationships; however research is lacking on LGB stepfamily formation post-heterosexual divorce.

• Same-sex couples are approximately 4.5 times more likely than different-sex couples to be rearing adopted children. However, many LGB prospective parents are vulnerable to discriminatory attitudes on the part of adoption professionals—or denied adoption altogether.

• Studies that have compared lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents in terms of mental health, perceived parenting stress, and parenting competence have found few differences based on family structure.

• Research findings are consistent in showing that psychological adjustment outcomes, academic achievement outcomes and social functioning outcomes for children born into LGB-parent families do not vary significantly from those in different-sex parent families. In addition, children of LGB parents do not seem to self-identify as exclusively lesbian/gay at significantly higher rates than children of heterosexual parents.

“We’ve seen growth in the research on LGB parenting, but many studies have focused on a very specific portion of this population,” Gartrell said. “More research is needed that explores the experiences of working-class and racial minority LGB-parent families, as well as LGB-parent families living in non-urban environments. Such work is especially timely given demographic data showing that many LGB-parent families are residing in unexpected regions of the country.”

Click here for the full report.

Professor Goldberg, who joined the psychology faculty at Clark in 2005, is co-editor of “LGBT-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice” (Springer, October 2012), and author of “Gay Dads: Transitions to adoptive fatherhood” (NYU Press, July 2012).  Her first book, “Lesbian and Gay Parents and their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle” (APA Books 2009), won several awards. She served as senior research fellow at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in Newton. Goldberg also has blogged for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post.

The Williams Institute is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. The Institute produces high-quality research with real-world relevance and disseminates it to judges, legislators, policymakers, media and the public.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.

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